Left Out Liberal

A left-wing/liberal look at the UK's General Election of 2005.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Theoretically quiet

This election "cease fire" is pissing me off. It's come at a far too convenient time. While Rover slips quickly into oblivion, causing potential electoral trouble in the West Midlands, all the parties are too busy avoiding the media unless it makes them look "statesmanlike" at the Pope's funeral.

Today will be no different. The Royal wedding will hopefully draw a low TV audience, but there will still be only very minimal campaigning. Another day lost. Sunday may hold something, but the "battle" will likely only resume on Monday, and thus another day is lost.

It is amazing how these co-incidences fall. Of course, Rover failing and the Pope's funeral being on the same day is nothing more than a co-incidence, but it seems to be fortunate for Labour in that they can keep it quiet and gloss over it for a few days while they prepare their stock answer to the questions. The Conservatives have naturally jumped on the bandwagon blaming everyone and saying they would support Rover, when a Thatcherite government of the past would only be more than happy to leave it to die. "Let the market decide!" would come the cry, and the jobs would vanish.

Rover's demise is not really an electoral issue and it shouldn't be because no one else would be able to do any better. There are 20,000 jobs at stake here, and these people and their families should be treated with respect not to allow this to turn into another political football. I have no doubt that people will feel very angry at Labour - the party of the Workers (allegedly) - but in truth it's not their fault. It's the inept management who seem to have done little to save the plant but a lot to fatten their wallets. The joys of unfettered capitalism are revealed once more.

So although the headlines may be dominated by other things, it doesn't mean there's nothing going on. As many commentators have declared, this could change the election in the West Midlands. So expect to see Tony Blair getting personally involved soon...

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Back Door Action

As Chicken Yoghurt has pointed out, Peter Hain is clearly the Minister for Anti-Tactical Voting this election. It seems to be his job to go around the country telling people that a vote for the Lib Dems is a vote for the Tories.

But my fuzzy memory is coming in here. The other day I was watching something - I can't for the life of me remember what is was - where the Conservative representative on the panel told everyone that a vote for the Lib Dems is a vote for Labour.

It can't work both ways. Of course, the sight of Peter Hain and a short reminder to everyone how he has turned his back on his party (I'm convinced if the Guardian run this Turncoat poll again now he'd win handsomely) is probably enough to discourage people from voting Labour. I'm not quite sure anyone would happily listen to him and modify their views accordingly. I suspect if Labour want their core vote to listen, they'll have to send Gordon Brown out with the not-so-subtle message that voting Lib Dem might deny them the chance to see him in power. Would Tony be bold enough to let him do that? I think not...

But it is a sign of how Labour is fearful. This election is probably going to be unprecedented for the lack of a uniform swing. Intense local campaigning in the key marginals as well as more tactical voting than ever is going to make the results night reasonably interesting. I'm predicting that some constituencies are going to swing wildly many ways as people vote heavily against government and Conservative ministers in particular by rallying around one particular candidate. Letwin and Davis are surely very vulnerable.

So although yesterday I was particularly concerned that the surprise of this election would be that there are no surprises - i.e. that the national result is not going to change much - I do feel that at the edges tactical voting is going to go down very well, Hain or no Hain. It probably won't do much damage, but a couple of unusual swings - for example, a pro-Labour swing in Beverley & Holderness to dislodge the Conservative MP there - against what will probably be a national anti-Labour swing could be the defining memory from this election.

People are more prepared to vary their vote than ever. Us residents of safe seats will have the usual no impact on the election. But in these specialised cases, there could be a lot of intriguing results, even though the final total result will not change much.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

The Mountain

It's perhaps unsurprising that everyone, including myself and even the traditional news media have jumped on the blogging bandwagon for the election. The Guardian's Election 2005 blog will be a worthy read, but yesterday they seemed to be posting to it every half an hour. That's one way to get blogger burnout and to turn away the readers!

The BBC has also let loose its pretty impressive election site, and I couldn't resist playing with the swingometers. And their results surprised me...

Only yesterday I realised how high the threshold is for the Lib Dems to make any progress this election. Serious swings to them of 5-10% will only herald a handful of seats. Worse is the fact that most of them are from the Tories, which either means that they have to convince Tory voters to switch to them - not likely given the Lib Dems progressive programme - or, and this is probably the only option, to get even more Labour voters to tactically vote for them. This is more likely, but it's going to require extreme targeting of certain vital constituencies and a lot of effort to educate the local populace that they live in such a vital marginal.

The Lib Dems have no choice but to run a highly specialised campaign. They've got to forget wooing the Tory voters and instead concentrate on keeping their existing support - which is fragile given that a lot of existing voters are disaffected Conservatives in seats like Southport - and then build on stealing as many Labour voters as possible in a tactical way. It will not help anyone if they pile up the votes by getting protest votes in Labour strongholds, because the majorities are just too high to overturn.

It's very possible the Lib Dems stagnate this election, despite the general rise in support. They're going to need a significant vote-winning moment in the campaign, and this morning's news that Paul Marsden has defected back to Labour after defecting to the Lib Dems in 2001 is not going to help at all.

Are the wheels coming off already? It's not even worth considering the scale of the mountain the Tories have to climb even just to get a minority administration.

The results of this election could be surprising in that little will change, while everyone is expecting there to be a lot up for grabs. It would be cruel irony if the surprise this time is that Blair is elected with another landslide against low expectations and a country with little trust in him.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

At last...

The day is here. Barring some other calamity today, the election should be underway fairly soon. It came as no surprise yesterday that the Royal wedding was going to have to be rescheduled after all, despite them spending all morning denying that they would even if the Pope's funeral was on the same day.

It seems that the New Labour way of denying everything all the way along, saying there will be no compromise, and then suddenly giving in at the last second without acknowledging that only five minutes before you were still insistent on no change, has spread to the Royal media tactics too.

An interesting story has broke this morning that a Labour candidate has defected to the Lib Dems. It's hardly a surprise and I agree with the sentiment behind the defection. Blair has just gone too far in the wrong direction, but worse is the fact that he has burnt most of the bridges he's crossed, leaving most people uncertain as to what direction a Labour party post-Blair would take.

But if the election results go with a below 60 majority for Blair, then such factors would have to be considered sooner rather than later. If Labour win and Blair goes short way into the term, it could be disasterous for them if there is a huge leadership struggle while the party is in government. They need to resolve the leadership issue behinds the scenes now so that a clean transition to the next leader can be achieved. Otherwise, if they are caught up in months of infighting, they will be destined to lose the next election, meaning the next leader - remember, there is a clear chance that it might not be Brown - would be presiding over a lame duck government. They certainly wouldn't want that.

And just to add weight to these discussions, there is a raft of polls out today showing Labour's lead has declined and in some cases is behind the Tories. Regardless of the position, they all confirm the general trend that Labour's support has took a small drop of late.

This election really isn't over yet. But if all else fails, Blair's postal vote bandwagon will save the day!

Monday, April 04, 2005

The Phoney Election

So the Monday arrives that everyone had been waiting for for some time... and it turns out to be yet another false start. As everyone knows by now, the election is likely to be called tomorrow, and lots of political reporters seem to be telling everyone that it will be a "sombre" start to the campaign because of the Pope's death.

I think this is going a bit too far. What does it matter if Blair goes on the attack tearing chunks out of Michael Howard tomorrow? The Pope's hardly in a condition to be offended or condemn Blair to Hell. It's going to happen anyway next week, so why wait for an arbitrary length of time to determine when it will be safe to start the offensive again? Why will it be inappropriate to insult each other on one day, and then the next it's OK again?

Seems a bit stupid, and it likely means the proper campaigning is probably not even going to begin when the election is called now, which will make this one of the shortest campaigns for some time.

I'm still hoping that the Royal wedding is going to be on the same day as the Pope's funeral as we could do with getting all of this over in one fell swoop. If they're on different days, it means the politicians will continue to tell us that it's "inappropriate" for them to campaign that day, which suits Tony Blair down to the ground. After all, while the campaigns are suspended, the polls will not be moving an inch.

Now then... I wonder how Blair is going to announce it tomorrow. Remember last time it was in a school where, co-incidentally, the entire media just happened to be invited? It has to look low-key tomorrow... and I'm sure the Blair spinmeisters have spent hours agonising over the right place to announce it for electoral bonuses. It will be interesting to see how it plays out.

Sunday, April 03, 2005


So the Pope shuffles off this mortal coil. It might be interesting if the funeral happens to fall on the same day as the Royal weeding wedding. How will the BBC resolve such a dilemma? They only have one David Dimbleby, and he can't possibly be in Rome and Windsor Guildhall at the same time. RIP Pope John Paul II.

As life continues, so unfortunately does the life of Charles Clarke. Stirring up trouble once more this morning, Charlie is preparing to blame everyone but himself if his glorious ID cards bill dies when the election is called. I am hoping it falls for obvious reason, but also because it will be good fun to see him working himself up into a strop once more, just as he did during the passage of Terrorism Bill. It's clear he's a very angry man, and it seems the slightest provacation gets him denouncing opposition to his plans as "crazy".

Naturally, this kind of language is not conducive to compromise, but I don't think he understands that by personally insulting the opposition he's only going to harden their resolve against him. He is an extremely poor quality politician and I'd like to see him out on his ears (pun very much intended), but I suspect his 8,000+ majority in Norwich South is a bit too much to overturn. We can but hope.

However, there is still a chance. There's no doubt the bill will be reintroduced after the election. But, if we can keep Blair's majority down, there may be a realistic chance of the bill being defeated if enough rebellion can be encouraged, and the Tories decide to take a principled opposition to the bill. Post-election, they won't worry too much about being labelled "soft on terror" which allows them to play a freer hand. The same is true for any potential Labour rebels, who will be not so concerned about deselection with the next election being four to five years away.

Considering all these factors, I imagine Charles Clarke is going to make a very concerted effort to get this through next week. All we can hope is that the Lords stalls it enough to kill it by the expected dissolution of Parliament Friday.

Will Blair still call the election tomorrow in light of the Pope's death? I hope so. It's not as if Blair gave a toss about the Pope's strong opposition to the Iraq war, so why should he start caring now?